Postcard from Positano

Positano is the most picturesque town on the Amalfi Coast, and arguably more photographed than a supermodel. Deidre Theron-Loots had to negotiate trains and automobiles as she travelled from Florence to Positano for a weekend of sea, sun, and stairs …

While on holiday in Florence, Italy, with my partner, he had to take his leave for a few days to attend a car launch in Spain. Having already spent three wonderful days in Florence, I decided to do my own road trip and booked a train ticket to Naples, and a nifty little Smart ForFour for the short trip south to the vertiginous Amalfi Coast, and the idyllic town of Positano.

The train trip from Florence to Naples took just three hours, and I found it to be the most relaxing way to travel. No rushing to an airport, queuing to check in, and undressing in public to get through security only to find that your flight has been delayed. Arriving on time at Napoli Centrale and as relaxed as a first class flight passenger, I took an Uber to the airport where my Smart ForFour, with just enough space for me and three suitcases, was waiting for me.

Traffic out of Naples reminded me somewhat of Cape Town on a Friday afternoon in Summer, but it’s nothing compared to the traffic along the Amalfi Coast. Imagine a winding road along a mountain slope barely wide enough for one car, but clogged with more busses than cars, all of which is exacerbated by seemingly every wealthy Italian in an Italian supercar racing to get to their seaside villa before dinner. In the end it took me three hours to drive the 60 km from Naples to Positano.

However, like any good Italian, I took it in my stride as my little Smart Car maneuvered with the agility of a gymnast as I eased along the winding Amalfi Drive, dodging busses and steering clear of the steep precipice on my right. The views over the dramatic cliffs and the serene waters of the Mediterranean beneath are truly breathtaking, and I simply had to stop every few kilometres to take in the vistas and snap some images for posterity… and Facebook.

During Summer on the Amalfi Coast the sun sets after 22h00, so upon my arrival in Positano I was greeted with the softest of light to illuminate and accentuate the colourful dwellings that tumble down the steep cliff to where the town spills onto the white beach and the turquoise sea. It’s a sight to behold and a memory to treasure.

Courtesy of my noble and Smart steed, I (me and my three suitcases) arrived safely in Positano where I checked into the Hotel Conca d’Oro, an ancient villa that was converted to a hotel in 1949 by Giovanni Cappiello, and remodelled in 2016 to preserve its impressive baroque style and hand painted majolica by master craftsmen of Positano. Located right at the top of Positano, with beautiful views over the town beneath and the mountains and sea on either side, I realised that I was in for some serious exercise. There is a bus that runs up and down from the hotels at the top to the shops and restaurants at the bottom, but since I prefer the more secluded Fornillo beach, I had no other choice than to take the stairs – all 578 of them – for my daily visit to the beach, and again for my dinner at Pupetto Ristorante, a quaint beach restaurant with astonishing views over the harbour and the town above, illuminated at night by the moon and stars.

The steep streets and steps are lined with wisteria-draped dwellings, a variety of specialty shops, and numerous fashion boutiques. Fashion runs deep in the history of this little village as Moda Positano originated here in the 1960s, and long before then Positano was the first in Italy to import Louis Réard’s bikinis from France.

Since ancient times, Italy has been in love with ceramics, and in the last hundred years the Amalfi Coast in general, and Positano in particular, has emerged as a major centre for Italian ceramics. Ceramics from Positano are characterised by the vibrancy of colours, mostly blue and yellow, representing the two constants in the seaside town: sea and sunshine. Today, ceramic creations from Positano adorn homes across the globe, and now even a home on the outskirts of Paarl.

This was not my first visit to Positano, so for the most part I decided to forego the shops and sightseeing, instead choosing to relax on the beach during the day, followed by a romantic dinner for one in the evening before retiring to my room with a good book.

However, if you plan a trip to Positano, I would suggest a longer stay than my three nights in order to take in all the sites along the Amalfi Coast and to make the most of the shopping in Positano. Take a day trip by boat to marvel at the Blue Grotto, or combine it with a trip to the island of Capri. You may even consider a night or two on the volcanic garden island of Ischia, and plan more day trips to explore the splendours of Pompeii, Rufolo’s gardens in Ravello, the Smeraldo Cave with its emerald colouring, or a hike along Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) with its incredible views of the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.

After dinner on my last night in Positano, I took a relaxed stroll along the beach before taking the stairs back to my room one more time. Early the next morning, I said goodbye but not farewell to this town that has stolen my heart, knowing that I will be back soon, this time perhaps with an Italian supercar with an “Aperta” moniker. Ciao for now, Positano.